"The piano keys are black and white but they sound like a million colors in your mind."

wiki ~ Maria Christina Mena

In a nutshell. The history of the folks and their work that went into creating the modern day piano we enjoy today is a story of perseverance on many levels. Developed in Europe over the span scores of generations of artisans, the instrument we enjoy today has overcome three central elements that bring its pitches to our fingertips. It's key mechanism brings a touch sensitivity of tone and volume of our most intimate utterances of music. Its tuning of the pitches enables the full range of melody and harmony through each of the 12 pitches equally. And its sustain pedal combines to not only allow notes to sustain their sing, but allows for complete rhythmic control of all of the above.

Vocalists. Simply work through the following suggestions and sing all of the pitches you can. Find someone to listen along, and help double check that your singing notes are in tune with the piano pitches.

Composers. Throughout history, composers have loved all of the various 'incarnates' of the piano over the centuries, and many of its most famous players have filled concert halls all over the world, the whole palette at their fingertips. In today's MIDI universe, a synth piano becomes an orchestrator of unlimited potential of sounds and colors with new innovations today that take us into tunings beyond our 12 pitches.

So in our learning and understanding our music, having a few of the piano's basics under our fingers can help us in many positive ways; clear pitches to hear and sing, all manner of arpeggios and chords, and a linear 'layout' of the pitches that some learners can quickly grasp to shape their perspective.

The two / three pattern of the black keys. The piano's keys layout our 12 notes by a combination of black and white keys. The first pattern we can notice is the clear 'two / three' pattern of the black keys tucked into the white keys, here shown reflected to enhance. Ex. 1.

The looping of the keys. This pattern is then looped, repeated seven times to give us the full range of a modern keyboard. Example 2.

The white key center. The pitches of the relative key pairing of 'C' major and 'A' minor are built right into the white keys. Example 3.

The black key centers. And since there are five black keys, these five notes grouped become the 'Gb' major / 'Eb' minor pentatonic scales. Example 4.

major 'Gb Ab Bb Db Eb Gb'

minor 'Eb Gb Ab Bb Db Eb'

All the 12 different pitches / keys. And now adding in the pitches of the black keys, we get all 12 pitches of the chromatic scale. Example 5.

The blue note keys. In relation to the white keys of the 'C and A' relative key center, the black keys provide the blue notes; 'Db, Eb, Gb, Ab, Bb.' Example 5.

Quick review. And that's that ... set in stone :) And the notes and keys and their layout have been this way all along now, which might be nearing 1000 years or so now, a millennium of magic. Rote them up here if needed and join into the piano's magical history.

wiki ~ the piano

Triads are built right in too. Each of the seven diatonic triads for 'C' major / 'A' minor are built right into the white keys too. Thinking 'C' major, find these groups of three notes. Play them in order a few times to orient them under the fingers, then jazz em' up as your Muse suggests. If available, use the sustain pedal to help smooth out the move from chord to chord. Example 6.

C E G / D F A / E G B / F A C

G B D / A C E / B D F / C E G

Create a sequence. From 'middle C', create the following sequence using three notes at a time, from the 'C' major scale. Example 7.

C D E / D E F / E F G / F G A

G A B / A B C / B C D / C D E ...

Improvise a melody from ... With the notes of a 'C' major scale, jazz up the rhythms and create a melody from the notes of the 'C' major scale, 'A' minor too. Example 8.

descending melody ~ C B A G F E D C


A blues piano solo. Twelve bar blues in 'Bb.' An amazing ten choruses improvised by Tom Bargelski, Alaska's wizard of the keys. Listen through and marvel, finding the 'top' of each new chorus along the way.

Get's right to it huh ? Hearing and finding the top ok ? There's 10 of them so ... count along if necessary. Find the downbeat and begin counting measures;

1234 2234 3234 4234 5234 6234 7234 8234 9234 10234 11234 1234 top 234 2234 3234 4234

and the beat goes on ... :)


Gospel chord voicings. That the gospel styled harmonies on piano can work with every style somehow with our Americana musics, here's a beginning point for getting started. Based in 'C' major, find these voicings on your piano and work them into the music you're playing, adjusting things along the way as necessary.

Review. Keep playing, find a teacher and keep exploring !

~ adding the seventh ~

~ bassline stories ~

~ voice leading and voicings ~

~ color tones ~

~ method book / Charles - Louis Hanon ~


"A problem is a chance for you to do your best."
wiki ~ Duke Ellington, on piano

References. References for this page's information comes from school, books and the bandstand and made way easier by the folks along the way.

References academia Alaska. And when you need university level answers to your questions and musings, and especially if you are considering a career in music and looking to continue your formal studies, begin to e-reach out to the Alaska University Music Campus communities and begin a dialogue with some of Alaska's own and finest resident maestros !